Larijani wins strongly in Iranian parliamentary elections

(dpa) - Ali Larijani, the former chief nuclear negotiator and political opponent of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has achieved a landslide victory in Iran's parliamentary elections, the news network Khabar reported Saturday.

Larijani ran as a candidate in the religious city of Qom, 130 kilometres south of Tehran, and according to still unconfirmed reports, gained more than 75 per cent of the vote against candidates close to the president.

He represents the so-called "revisionists," a group that used to back the president but gradually grew apart from him and formed their own faction.

Larijani resigned last October as chief nuclear negotiator after grave differences with Ahmadinejad over the country's nuclear policies and has since then been regarded as a critic of the president, especially regarding the president's economic policies which have caused high inflation.

The conservative but pragmatic official was asked by high-ranking clergy circles to run for the Qom and not Tehran constituency and observers believe that the move was symbolic for the clergy's support for Larijani and the new political trend among the conservatives.

Considering his landslide, it remains to be seen whether Larijani would replace as new parliament speaker Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel, head of the pro-Ahmadinejad faction who ran for Tehran where results have yet to be announced.

As expected, initial results from the provinces show a lead for the conservatives who formed the majority of the candidates after more than half of reformist candidates were disqualified by the senate-like Guardian Council for lack of loyalty to the Islamic system.

As in the provinces technical rather than political aspects are considered by the voters, only the results of the big cities, especially the 30 seats in the capital Tehran, will clarify political trends in parliament.

Reformists close to former president Mohammad Khatami hope to gain one-third of the vote in order to establish at least an effective opposition inside the parliament.

Although the pro-Ahmadinejad faction is likely to gain most of the votes, the shares of both the pro-Larijani group and the reformists could still have an impact on future legislative decisions.

Final results are expected to be out on Monday or Tuesday.

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